Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The State of the NFL

If you haven't heard the news about Albert Haynesworth, you obviously haven't been near a television, radio, or any form of print media since Sunday. A quick recap; Albert decided it would be a good idea to stomp on the head of Cowboys center Andre Gurode. That decision cost him a 5 game suspension. Seems reasonable, although I think the suspension should have been for the rest of the season. But that's not what I'm here to discuss today.

Any time an incident like this happens, the press goes absolutely fucking crazy. Sports radio hosts whips themselves into a frenzy, and the various shitty ESPN TV shows like PTI & Sports Reporters shout back and forth at each other like it's the end of the world.

On ESPN Radio yesterday, Joe Theismann (Theesmann) had this to say:

"I think that one of the things that has fallen off in professional sports across the board is respect. Respect for the game, respect for the guys that play it, respect for your teammates. That's an area that has, to me, really fallen off. The acts of some of the players, the selfishness of a Terrell Owens, this particular act by Haynesworth..."

I guess Joe's forgetting that this same type of shit went on during his time in the NFL. Joe's reaction isn't entirely uncommon. Many of these former players-turned-analysts tend to say things like Joe. They want to believe (and make us believe) that the game was better in their day, that the NFL has degenerated since their heyday. But that's bullshit.

Let's face it, dirty play has been a part of the league for as long as anyone can recall. Pick up a book from almost any former NFL player and read their stories.

Look at Conrad Dobler, an offensive lineman, who once kicked an opponent in the head. He legwhipped opponents, bit them, and gouged anyone within striking distance. He spit on a player once, and after he retired, wrote a book titled "They Call Me Dirty". He was proud of it.

Dobler wasn't the only player that liked to spit on opponents. Bill Romanowski, one of the dirtiest players of all time, spit in WR J.J. Stokes' face in front of a national television audience on Monday Night Football. He broke Kerry Collins' jaw. And he has a book of his own, "Romo: My Life on the Edge--Living Dreams and Slaying Dragons", in which he brags about his dirty play.

Charles Martin, a defensive tackle, is forever remembered for making "The Dirtiest Play Ever In NFL History". From The Chicago Tribune's David Haugh:

"Martin took the field that Sunday afternoon on Nov. 23, 1986, wearing a towel displaying the numbers of three Bears offensive stars--9, 34, 83--McMahon, Walter Payton and Willie Gault, respectively, plus 63 and 29 for Jay Hilgenberg and Dennis Gentry. In Bears-Packers lore, the numbers scrawled on the towel will always be known as "the hit list."

After Packers safety Mark Lee intercepted a McMahon pass in the second quarter of a game eventually won 12-10 by the Bears, Martin grabbed McMahon from behind and body-slammed him to the ground.

"It was at least 20 seconds after the interception," said Jerry Markbreit, a retired NFL official who worked the game. "I don't think he had an awareness of how late it was, or that the play was over. McMahon was walking to the sideline, had relaxed, and he picked him up and smashed him to the ground."

Markbreit worked 461 NFL games over 23 years. He had never been so shocked by a player's action. To that point in league history, no player had ever been thrown out of a game for anything but a fight.

But Markbreit, bothered by the severity of the hit and a little concerned Bears players "might kill" Martin, ejected the defensive tackle and escorted him off the field. Markbreit's decision ultimately cost Martin a two-game suspension and $15,000 fine."

The list of names and stories goes back before the AFL-NFL merger, and will continue for years to come. Names like Tatum, Davidson, Gogan, Wisniewski, and many others will be joined by scores of future NFL thugs. It's an unfortunate side effect of putting 22 extremely large, jacked-up guys on a field and letting them destroy each other for 60 minutes every Sunday. Once in a while, one of them loses it.

So Theesmann and all you other former players living in the past like Abraham Simpson, lose the "in my day" crap and call it what it is. An isolated incident that has happened before and will surely happen again.


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